“Lonely Too Long“
Written by Mike Lawler, Bill Rice, and Sharon Vaughn
#1 (1 week)
November 16, 1996
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
November 8, 1996
A vocalist overdue for the Hall of Fame tops the charts for the last time.
The Road to No. 1
After “You Can Feel Bad” went to No. 1, Loveless went top fifteen with “A Thousand Times a Day.” The third single from The Trouble With the Truth returned her to the penthouse.
The No. 1
Loveless was the reigning ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year when this song made it to No. 1, and she’d repeat the ACM victory the following year. That she was able to enjoy such success with sophisticated and mature material like this was a product of a very special time for women in country music, which Loveless noted herself when she accepted one of those awards.
This is a song as grounded in the real experiences of modern womanhood as all of those classic Dolly, Loretta, and Tammy records were back in the day. In the aftermath of a potential one-night stand, she has a morning after chat where she assures her partner that “we ain’t done nothing wrong. We’ve just been lonely too long.”
She subtly makes the case that perhaps something more could come from this encounter, if they can get over being “afraid we might get our fingers burned.” What makes it a nineties country record is that it’s the woman expressing the confidence that their tryst was morally sound, and although she’s lightly encouraging it turning into something more, the value of the night before isn’t dependent on that.
Sometimes such an encounter is the first step on the path to everlasting love. Sometimes it’s just a hookup. Either way, a good time was had by all, and no need to second guess what goes bump in the night in the clear light of morning.
During the mid-nineties, Loveless was joined on the radio by Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker, Lari White, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood, all of whom scored multiple hits during that time frame, and all of those hits were collectively significantly better than the output of their male counterparts.
Comparing 2022 to 1996 is enough to make you want to throw tomatoes at country radio.
The Road From No. 1
Loveless went top five with “She Drew a Broken Heart” and top fifteen with the title track from The Trouble With the Truth, which became her third consecutive platinum album. Her next album, Long Stretch of Lonesome, went gold on the strengths of the top fifteen hits “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” (featuring George Jones) and “To Have You Back Again,” and the top twenty “High On Love.” A hits collection called Classics would be her final gold album to date, and it included two top thirty hits among its new material.
Loveless didn’t return to the top ten, but her next two mainstream country albums – Strong Heart and On Your Way Home – each produced two top thirty chart hits. But they were both outsold by Mountain Soul, a bluegrass album she released in between those two sets. She’d go on to win a Grammy for the sequel to that album, Mountain Soul II, which was her second independent release after leaving Epic.
Loveless has done some harmony work on albums by Kathy Mattea, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood, but has otherwise been inactive as a recording artist for the past twelve years. She still appears regularly on the Opry, and her most memorable public appearance was at the memorial for George Jones, where she sang “Go Rest High On That Mountain” with her longtime friend and recording companion, Vince Gill.
Like many of the women listed above, she belongs in the Hall of Fame, which will hopefully happen soon.
“Lonely Too Long” gets an A.
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